Ageing Millennials Matter Too
Ever since Girls first aired, I’ve struggled with why exactly I don’t love the show just like everyone else does.
I hate it. I endured 6 episodes before I decided that Hannah Horvath was the most insufferable, self-entitled, useless, good-for-nothing, deluded mess I’d ever had the misfortune of being aware of. I only found one other person who disliked it/her as much as I did, but I didn’t really like that one person anyway so I figured that there still was something wrong with me (because I didn’t want any alignment with that person. #mature).
Then, along came Broad City. Produced by Amy Poehler (love that woman), I felt that I would just love that show. But, to me Broad City was like Girls on happy drugs. I love that the characters on Broad City are so much better friends and have better hearts than those on Girls. I love that Abbi and Ilana are so supportive of one another and are feminists but in a delightfully ordinary and everyday sense of the word, as opposed to the claws and teeth that are so regularly bared in basically every episode of Girls. I love it. But still, I absolutely can’t relate to people who could walk around with their tax forms in grocery bags and then accidentally (or maybe not) throw those bags in the trash. Adulting was a real issue on Broad City. My judgment knew no limits. I was turning into a bitter, angry person thanks to television. Well, more bitter and angry than I already am (most likely thanks to Girls, okay).
In the last few months, I’ve come across a number of articles detailing how a number of other people are just like me: Girls-loathing, Broad City-dismissing, lack-of-faith-in-humanity-ating. The catch? We’re all Millennials. We are all from the same generation as the characters in Girls and Broad City.
We thrive on social media, we view our jobs as more than just jobs, we are looking for purpose and meaning, we want work-life balance, we enjoy focusing on multiple tasks and projects at the same time, we seek recognition, we desire transparency. These are things that most, if not all, Millennials desire.
However, as with most things, stereotypes exist. There are certain stereotypes associated with Millennials that also serve as parts of the premise of such types of shows:
- Me, myself and I — the world revolves around me, my problems are the worst, I am the most important
- I need to publish all details of my life online: if it’s not documented, it may as well not have happened
- I am not willing to struggle. I want success at my very feet, every step of the way
- If I am made to struggle, I should be provided with certain amenities (read: money) to make the struggle easier for me
- I am sexually liberated and I want everyone around me to be reminded of that fact 638 times a day
- Life sucks. Life is tough. Life is hard. So let’s just chuck all responsibilities aside and get some weed/find some people to hook up with and forget about solving our problems. YOLO.
- I am lazy. So what? I still manage to get by.
I understand that in many ways and situations, television should be viewed as an escape from reality. But with shows nowadays increasingly attempting to emulate real life, it’s difficult for many of us to accept that television is simply an escape and nothing more. Consumers today are the smartest that they’ve ever been. We are no longer content with the basics — we always want more. Everything has a sociocultural angle to it. You see it on Master of None, where pop-cultural references are interlaced with issues to do with race, gender and the overarching (contentious, yet important) theme of identity.
So, since I know that television is now being used as cultural commentary, perhaps Millennials aren’t as homogenous as we may seem to be given that there are many Millennials who detest shows that are aimed precisely at their generation.
There are many Millennials who fit right into the stereotypes — and there is nothing wrong with that. But there are other brackets of Millennials too; those who wish to learn how to ‘adult’, who take their responsibilities seriously, who have no patience for nonsense, who want recognition but are willing to struggle just a little more, who don’t wish to publish their entire lives online, who are sexually liberated but think that it’s nobody else’s business, who understand the importance of friendships and relationships in this increasingly fractured world, those who are prudes but think that that’s fine for them, who truly understand that while their problems may seem bad, at the very core of it all they do have a life that they’re thankful for.
Shows like Girls, Master of None, Broad City, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, etc. all address various facets of these Millennial brackets. But still, the majority of their premise rests on stereotypes. It’s frightening because television is a very strong cultural force and has the power to influence its consumers.
But maybe they can’t influence ageing Millennials.
Ageing Millennials live in the brackets. They are a mix of their elders’ values and their own beliefs. Ageing Millennials remember what it was like to watch shows before Netflix, Hulu and YouTube existed. Some ageing Millennials are probably not too enamoured by the new breed of celebrities known as YouTubers, though they know about them and perhaps even follow some of them. They may find their social media fixes on Facebook, Instagram, maybe Twitter but definitely not Snapchat or Vines. Or maybe they only use Twitter and Instagram and eschew everything else. Or they may use all forms of social media with less of an investment in them than their younger peers. They recall the days of counting the number of free text messages they had left, and how many minutes of talk-time they had left for the month (and if they ran out, they left missed calls so that their friends could call them back). They want to get rid of their student loans as quickly as possible and get started on that as soon as they can. Debt isn’t a long-standing reality for them, it’s a chapter in their life’s story. Ageing Millennials are less likely to be lazy and entitled. Ageing Millennials are start-up bosses, the creators of Girls, Master of None and Broad City, the writers of amazing content on The New York Times and Buzzfeed.
I like to think that Ageing Millennials are aware, but perhaps not influenced. They have grown up trying to do things for themselves, by themselves, before being met by this onslaught of digitisation that is supposed to make lives easier and quicker. They’ve got one foot on each end of this spectrum, resulting in them being at least a slightly different breed of Millennials.
Ageing Millennials aren’t really reflected in today’s media because almost everything is catered to the stereotypical Millennials. As a consumer, I feel better because I am able to articulate my understanding of my position in this bracket better. But as a MarComms strategist, I feel that there is some real opportunity here to understand this often over-looked and maybe even dismissed group of consumers.
It also means that I can now watch shows like Girls and Broad City with less of an emotional investment (because it is not representational of me and my bracket-peers), and more of a hedonistic attitude.
Life sucks. Life is tough. Life is hard. So let’s just chuck all responsibilities aside (or, uh, maybe only once I’m done with 99% of them) and watch some TV about Millennials who behave in ways I never will. YOLO.
Articles that have prompted my thoughts on this (though I may not agree with everything in these):